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Utah cell phone law alters mobile use in cars

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There's no denying that the increased number of mobile smartphones have dramatically altered the lives of Americans everywhere.

From Utah teenagers who use Snapchat over texting to keep tabs on their friends, to commuters who listen to Pandora and Spotify on the way to the office, our cell phones have become an extension of almost everything we do.

But starting May 13, Utah drivers will be forced to do a little less with their phones — and it could have a significant effect on your driving habits, or your bank account.

Texting while driving has been illegal in Utah for several years. But this spring, it will also become illegal to use a phone to dial a number, search the Web, play a song from your playlist and use a smartphone app while driving. The new law is a crack down on drivers who try to do too much without using the hands-free mode like the one provided by Ford's new SYNC technology.

"To focus on the road, to focus on your driving, that's the main intent," Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce told KSL on Thursday.

The new law won't just ban mobile phone use, though. Laptops and tablets will no longer be able to send texts, emails or instant messages in the car, and forget about taking a photograph of video with any of the same devices.

Exceptions to the hands-free law will be made to call emergency personnel during a car accident, report a roadside hazard or alert police to criminal activity. But for every-day driving, the limitations will take some adjusting.

Unless you've installed a Bluetooth or hands-free system like the Ford SYNC in your car recently, it would be best to avoid using your phone in the car after the May 13 deadline. But anything that takes your hands off the wheel? Cut it out.